Four years ago I returned to work after my maternity leave ended, after having my second son. I couldn’t settle. I missed my sons terribly. I had so much work to do I couldn’t see an end to it. I’d come home late, rush the boys off to bed because I still had work to do. Once they had been shooed to bed, I felt so terrible that I’d crawl into my own bed and cry. I cried myself to sleep night after night. And it just got worse. On a Monday morning, I couldn’t see the end of the week … I couldn’t see the end of the day … I couldn’t see how to get out of the house in the morning … I couldn’t see how to get out of bed.
I would drive the 30 minutes to work crying, my distress visible on arrival in the red streaks and puffiness around my eyes. I’d get angry with myself, tell myself to get a grip and snap out of it. The crying did eventually stop and was replaced by a nothingness. I felt nothing. I worked, I went home, I crawled into bed. All the time feeling nothing.
Then the anxiety started. I worried about everything. A simple trip to town with the boys would cause my heart to race, my palms to sweat, my skin to go clammy. I felt like I was suffocating. I felt like I couldn’t breath. I’d rush us back home and crawl under the darkness of my duvet where I didn’t have to ‘be’ anymore. I avoided every staff night out, I kept away from friends.
I lived like this for three years. It took three years for me to say to myself this isn’t right. This isn’t life. It took several attempts to pick up the phone to make an appointment with my GP. When I finally walked into her room and sat down, she took one look at me, handed me some tissues and said, ‘It’s ok. Take your time.’ And out it all came. I will be eternally grateful to my GP for that moment of sheer understanding. She knew. There was something wrong because she could see it. She could see the invisible blackness in and around me. I wasn’t making it up.
That was on the second of January this year. With her continuing support I am living again. I’m not better. There is no cure. But I’m learning how to live with this debilitating thing … depression. I am so lucky to have a handful of close friends who I’ve opened up to and who are amazing. We meet for coffee, we chat, they listen. I’ve joined a running club, something that I could never have done a year ago. Most days I’m happy.
There are still triggers and bad days, but I deal with them. I curl up with a book, I write. I started writing three years ago and it’s the one thing that lets me escape. As my imagination takes over, I’m not me. And that is why I will always write. Stories bubble and brew in my mind and sitting at the laptop with twitchy fingers is thrilling.
My three boys are my world. They are my very own sprinkling of magic.
Work is still a problem, I think that’s partly to do with how teaching has become. The constant pressure, the negativity, the workload – it’s difficult. The teaching part is great – that’s what keeps me there.
Why have I written this blog? I don’t know. Maybe for someone to read it who’s suffering to realise that it’s ok to go and ask for help. It took more courage for me to go to my GP than to stay hidden under my duvet. Maybe because I don’t feel like I have to pretend anymore. I can say it out loud. I battle with depression. I can’t ‘snap out of it’ as I’ve been told to in the past. I don’t have to worry anymore about those who say, ‘What have you got to be depressed about?’ That’s their ignorance, not mine.
Depression’s a part of me but it doesn’t define me. I’m me – Mam, a children’s writer, a teacher.
Hwyl am y tro x